I heard a radio program recording of a Christmas special (either Bob Hope or Bing Crosby, I think). Some famous woman was going to sing, and they mentioned her stage name (which I don’t recall), but then switched to referring to her as “Mrs Some Actor Who I Wasn’t as Familiar With”. Very jarring.
We have a women’s club here in Little Rock who have been meeting since the 1880s or 90s. If you go to the MacArthur Museum, you can see photos of all the presidents of the club through 2020 and it’s not until the late 80s or early to mid 90s that they stop being addressed as Mrs. Husband’s Name. But this club was made of older well-to-do women so they probably held on to the tradition a little longer than the rest of us.
I still see it here and there, especially on formal invitations and things like that. Heck, I have one Christmas card envelope here that is Mr. and Mrs. MyFirstName MyLastName. The other one I have is “The MyLastName Family.” My wife kept her last name and, hell, you can address her as “Dr.”, not “Mrs.” or “Ms.” since she has a PhD, too.
I don’t hear it, though, very often, if at all.
I believe that in the olden times, the etiquette was that “Mrs. John Smith” was married or widowed, and “Jane Smith” was single or divorced. I might not have it exactly right, but I suspect that crazy grandma felt that you were taking her social status away from her. It does seem very silly now.
My grandfather and his eldest son had the same first name.
My grandmother had stationery and address stickers which read: “Mrs John Smith.” Wife of eldest son had to make do with “Mrs J. Smith”.
When my grandfather died in the 1950s, wife of eldest son “helpfully” got new stationery for my grandmother: “Mrs John Smith, Sr.” That would allow wife of eldest son to claim the moniker of “Mrs John Smith”.
Grandmother threw them in the wastebin and used “Mrs John Smith” for the rest of her life.
The practice was a plot point in the 1995 Julia Roberts movie Something to Talk About. IIRC, Roberts was trying to get the women in her snooty southern ladies’ club to drop the practice, and one of them responded with something like, “If I’m not Mrs. John Smith, then who the hell am I?”
Oh interesting. And was that set in contemporary times? I grew up in California and had sufficient awareness by 1995 to think it was quite old-fashioned then. But the South is a long way from there.
As far as I remember, it was. But the whole point was that it was old-fashioned at the time.
Well, I’m sure you’re right. Evil Gran’s marital history was “married my grandpa, divorced my grandpa, married my grandpa, divorced my grandpa, married old rich dude, outlived him and soaked the estate for all she could get.” So you can see there’s just a hint of dysfunction there that a certain kind of person might want to paper over by Keeping Up Appearances to the max.
@Northern_Piper’s story wins the thread though. That’s hilarious!
Back in the day, in some cultures anyway, it was even weirder than that. Say, Susan Hughes marries John Smith; she became “Mrs. John Smith” as noted. If she divorced, she became “Mrs. Hughes Smith,” of all things. This is standard Victorian nomenclature, according to Miss Manners. She would never be “Mrs. Susan Smith,” because the Mrs. is essentially shorthand for “Wife of” and Mrs. Susan Smith doesn’t make any sense in that reading.
I have an old novel in which the main character, Miss Leda March, marries her cousin, Dr. James March. She goes from being Miss March to Mrs. March. Then they divorce, and she became “Mrs. March March” – her maiden name, plus her ex-husband’s name.
The invention of “Ms.” really was a boon, wasn’t it?
In my mind, there’s a significant distinction between a couple being addressed as Mr. and Mrs. John Smith and addressing an individual woman as “Mrs. John Smith”. The first seems like an annoyingly sexist shorthand, but the woman is still in there somewhere. She’s just less important, but she’s not gone. But when a woman is introduced as “Mrs. John Smith” and her given name is erased socially, that seems much worse to me.
I’ve known women would would have written “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” to describe the couple they were part of, but they were still Suzie, or whatever, in all other contexts.
Ha, I was thinking about this recently and wanting to start a thread asking when it stopped.
I remember my mom would get mail address to Mrs. Dads name in the 1980s, but by the 90s that seems to have stopped. Thats what I recall
I was just about to say that!
I remember this coming up in the eighties. By 88’ or 89’ it was gone. For a time, I really thought I had to put a lot of effort into learning these honorifics. I remember thinking "I’ll never remember this…?
As i said, i think i still get the occasional piece of mail like that. Not from anyone i continue to do business with, though.
I used to work with a woman whose stay-at-home husband had interesting hobbies, like caring for parrots whose owners had died. We used to refer to him as Mr herfirstname herlastname. We knew he had a different name, but we didn’t actually know him, and didn’t recall it.
Of course, when she invited us over to visit, we all made a point of actually learning his name, at least his first name.
Here in Europe, in the more traditional/conservative countries (including where I live), and especially in the context of communications from large, dinosaur-like institutions (such as banks), it’s still done this way.
My wife is supremely annoyed every time she gets a letter from our commune addressed to Mrs. Cer Vaise.
The only recent examples I have seen used are
- The Mrs and Mrs so and so as alluded above
- When it is shorthand for So and So’s wife, when you know she exists and don’t know her name.
Agreed. Or as I said in part of my post in the other thread:
Mrs. John Smith reduces the woman to an “s”
Mr. & Mrs. John Smith reduces the woman to an “Mrs.”
That’s so much better!
Data point from 2020: An investigation into allegations that a dead man voted in Georgia this year revealed that although James Blalock did indeed die some years ago, the person voting this year was Mrs. James E. Blalock, Jr. That is how she is registered to vote and how she signed her absentee ballot.
While I don’t see Mrs. Blalock’s age, she says in her first presidential election she voted for Franklin Roosevelt, so she must be pushing the century mark.
One of my good friends, who is 43 years old, set her email as MrsJSmith@gmail.com (only of course with her husband’s real name). You might think she is maybe a very devout religious person but nope, only time she’s been in a church was her wedding day. She is, as you can imagine, a rabid right-winger.
Our relationship is complicated.
Personally, I think people should get some credit for how realistic it is to get names right. If you are working with someone every day and keep calling her Julie when her name is Julia - that’s a problem. When your best friend took her husband’s last name, and five years later you are still addressing her Christmas card to her maiden name - that’s passive aggressive nonsense. When you see Noah’s Mom at the grocery store - a woman you’ve only had two conversations with over soccer practice - calling her Noah’s Mom is fine. A coworkers spouse’s last name that is different than the coworkers - that’s out of bounds to get upset over.